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Corporate travel spending could take $560 billion hit from coronavirus - industry group

SYDNEY (Reuters) - An industry group said the coronavirus could scythe $560 billion from spending on corporate travel this year, a 37% drop from its 2020 global expenditure forecast, as meetings and events are cancelled and companies limit travel to protect employees.

The U.S.-based Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) said two-thirds of polled members had postponed at least a few events, while 95% had suspended or cancelled most or all trips to China and 23% to European countries such as France, Germany and Italy.

The virus was fundamentally affecting the way companies do business, said GBTA Chief Operating Officer Scott Solombrino.

“If this turns into a global pandemic, the industry may well lose billions of dollars – an impact that will have negative ramifications for the entire global economy,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

The world prepared for a coronavirus pandemic on Friday as hopes that the disease could be contained to China vanished and investors dumped equities in expectation of a global recession.

Of the projected lost corporate travel spending, GBTA said nearly $400 billion relates to China, where the virus originated late last year, and $109 billion in Europe, where it has spread to several countries.

Many airlines and hotel groups have warned of a hit to earnings as the outbreak led to reduced bookings and more cancellations.

Asian economies could lose $105 billion to $115 billion in gross domestic product this year as tourism slumps following the outbreak, Dutch bank ING said on Monday.

Reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Sherry Jacob-Phillips